What Went Wrong With the Cincinnati Bengals?

: David Kohl – USA TODAY Sports

Does anybody remember when the Bengals were surging at 4-1 and looked to pounce into the playoffs with a prolific offense composed of a lightning-hot Andy Dalton, rising star running back Joe Mixon, and great receivers like A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd?

Yeah, I don’t either.

Can you believe that this team was once a playoff hopeful just about 2 months ago? Now, starting QB Andy Dalton was placed on IR this week and fans are once again calling for the firing of long-time head coach Marvin Lewis. Let’s dissect what went wrong for the Bengals since their promising start in early October.

Harsh Schedule

Cincinnati fans and the team itself must’ve felt the hype growing around their team and therefore expected a win when they entered the game against the struggling 2-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. While Cincy held it close and led 21-20 with a minute on the clock, Cincinnati’s defense unfortunately choked away the game, letting Antonio Brown score the game-winner in a 28-21 letdown for the Bengals. Cincinnati failed to rebound the following week as they got embarrassed 45-10 on national television by an explosive Chiefs team led by MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. Shortly after, another humiliating loss to New Orleans must have erased all the hype surrounding the team. Sitting at 5-4, the team and its fans must have felt the season slipping away. Momentum had shifted from the Bengals’ feet, and they would subsequently lose winnable games against the rookie-led Ravens and Browns. If the Bengals were able to secure a win against the Steelers, they could’ve had a comfortable 7-4 / 8-3 record. Unfortunately, the Bengals now sit in limbo with a 5-6 record and their playoff aspirations have almost completely dissolved.

Historically Inept Defense

If you had to choose one reason why this team is underperforming, you could single-handedly fault the team’s defense. The Bengals are playing astronomically poorly on the defensive side of the ball, ranking last in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game. At one point, the Bengals were on pace to break the single season yards allowed record held by the 2012 Saints, something that did not even seem possible. The 2018 Bengals are also the only team to allow 500 total yards in three consecutive games. They proceed to allow 400 yards to a Ravens offense led by Lamar Jackson and gave up 4 passing touchdowns to Baker Mayfield and the Browns. While the Bengals had to play against top-ranked offenses in the Chiefs and Saints, these results are inexcusable for a team contending for the playoffs. Hiring Hue Jackson has not seemed to help either.

Encumbered With Injuries

One final reason that the Bengals have slowed down is because of their injury bug. Tyler Eifert, Carl Lawson, and Preston Brown being placed on IR are significant losses, especially Lawson and Brown on an already struggling Bengals defense. Joe Mixon and Vontaze Burfict have also floated around the injury report, but the more significant loss is A.J. Green. The loss of Green, who is one of the NFL’s most reliable receivers, was a tough blow to an offense that needed playmakers to step up to compensate for their shoddy defense. Now that Dalton has also been added to injury reserve, it seems like the Bengals’ dim playoff chances are have officially been put to rest. While Dalton had been struggling for a few weeks now, he was still a reliable starter in many games. Relying on an inexperienced Driskel and Savage is not a recipe for success. Injuries always plague teams, but it bit deeply into the Bengals.


A tough schedule, a lack of a competent defense, and injuries have all contributed to the record the Bengals now sport. With games against the Broncos, Chargers, and Steelers up ahead, the best possible record for the Bengals might be 7-9 or 6-10. Unfortunately for Cincinnati fans, even this win-loss record would not lead to Marvin Lewis’ departure.

One year, the Cincinnati Bengals will hopefully escape mediocrity and compete for the Lombardi. It just doesn’t seem to be this year.